Today we have with us Karen Tomlinson, a writer from the UK, to share with us her experience from writing a novel to beginning the road to publishing on her own. Her first novel is set to be published this coming fall. Read her story as she discusses what led her to choose self-publishing, what she’s experienced with it so far, and what her process has been.
Karen Tomlinson is the author of The Guardians of The Goddess series of Young Adult fantasy books. Book one A Bond of Venom and Magic will be released autumn 2016.
Karen has been an avid reader since being a child. Her taste in books is eclectic, but she likes nothing better than a fantasy romance. She lives in Derbyshire, England with her husband, gorgeous twin girls, and her dalmatian Poppy. Karen trained as a nurse and currently works as a resuscitation and clinical skills trainer, which involves training a wide variety of health care professionals and medical students. In addition to being a full-time working mum and author, Karen has many hobbies. She has been training at Shotokan karate since being thirteen, likes walking, mountain biking, and (for something completely different) cake decorating. She is currently working on book two in the Guardians of The Goddess series, A Bond of Blood and Fire.
Synopsis of Karen’s upcoming book A Bond of Venom and Magic
THE WRAITH LORD IS HUNTING. HIS PRIZE: THE KEY TO UNLEASHING DARKNESS AND CHAOS UPON THE EIGHT KINGDOMS.
For Diamond Gillon, the war raging in the south seems a remote danger, until she loses everything she holds dear. After her home is brutally attacked, Diamond is catapulted into a terrifying new world in which legendary beasts arise, magic is condemned, and half blood fae like herself have no rights. Diamond is drawn ever closer to her savior Commander Hugo Casimir. Despite Diamond’s growing feelings for him, Hugo remains a paradox. Not only is he a heartless killer, but he is also owned by the cruel immortal fae queen-a queen who will murder her own people for magic. Will Hugo become her friend, her protector, or an enemy not worthy of her trust?
As Diamond’s circumstances become ever more perilous, she is drawn deeper into Hugo’s world and discovers the lengths to which he will go to save what he holds dear.
A Bond of Venom and Magic is a tale of two people bound by magic and secrets but trapped in the complexities of love and betrayal. It is the beginning of an epic journey-one that will test Diamond’s resolve and determination to battle an evil that threatens not only her world but that of Eternity, the land of The Guardians and The Goddess.
How many books have you written?
I started writing The Guardians of The Goddess series about four years ago. The idea for the series came from my twin girls requesting a regular bed time story. One wanted a romantic fairy tale with a prince and princess, and the other wanted dragons and horses. I have always loved books and always enjoy a good fantasy story. I had previously tried and failed, due to the responsibilities of life, to write a novel. I decided this time I wanted to write about the characters me and my girls had developed and finish their journey so that other people could enjoy their story too. Many things have to align in your life to make reaching the end point/your goal possible. Mobile technology has helped me immensely in that I could write anywhere and everywhere, giving me the chance to immerse myself in creating a world for my characters. My children grew up a bit, and my job responsibilities changed to one which was less stressful. To start with, most of my book was written on the journey to work or in my lunch breaks. I did a huge word vomit and wrote my ideas for the first book in a chunk of 250,000 words. With a lot of editing and hard work, this has formed the structure for the first three books. Obviously the story has evolved, and the characters have developed and now have their own exciting paths to take (not always together). At present, I have book one ready for my editor, who is booked for June, with books two and three almost done. Book four is in rough outline, and book five is waiting in my mind for its opportunity to escape onto the page.
What made you decide to self-publish and did you consider looking for an agent?
I found that if I mentioned self-publishing as a plan, people would roll their eyes and make appeasing noises.
I had always considered self-publishing as a possibility from the offset because I have lots of work and family commitments and didn’t think I would have the time to dedicate to searching for an agent. However, when I initially started out writing, I found that if I mentioned self-publishing as a plan, people would roll their eyes and make appeasing noises. I am sad to say this influenced me into thinking I could not be a writer or indeed be taken seriously, unless I were traditionally published. Once I had finished an early draft of my first book (135,000 words at this point) I began looking into sending it off to agents. I spent many hours researching on the internet how to ‘hook an agent’. I researched who represented YA and fantasy and began trying to get the word count down further, as all literature on YA writing suggests books around 100,000 words. I looked up various agents on lots of different platforms, researched their interests and who they represented, and wrote cover letters tailored to each agent. I attended the Bloomsbury “how to hook an agent” day and attended other literary festivals where agents were speaking.
As I sent off various inquiry letters, I began to realise how much of my time was being taken up with writing individually crafted letters and adjusting the email to suit the requirements of each agency. I think in the end I sent off just over thirty letters, which is nothing compared to a lot of authors. Some responded with rejections; some did not respond at all, as is the way. What I did discover is how frustrating and slow the whole process is, especially when it is drummed into you over the internet etc. how low your chances of someone even reading the extract of your work is.
I spent about eight months on this process, during which I wrote the draft of my next book. I began to feel I was wasting precious time on something that might never happen, so I decided to revisit self-publishing. At about this time, I read the first in the Air Awakens series by Elise Kova who is also a self-published author. I had recently started setting up a website and looking into a mailing list provider but had no idea how to entice people to sign up. So I contacted Elise and asked if she had any advice on marketing a book and how to encourage people to sign up to a mailing list. She very kindly and patiently answered my queries and pointed me towards a science fiction and fantasy podcast she did on marketing, which was extremely helpful.
Knowing such a well produced product could be achieved by self-publishing sparked my determination to re-visit and stick with my original plan.
For the past four months I have put all my time and energy into producing my own high quality product and can’t wait to see the results. Although I am still finding it challenging to build my mailing list and street team, it would be awesome if you would like to sign up!
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
It’s difficult to answer this one as I don’t have traditional publishing to compare to. But I have read the blogs of other authors and can give you my perspective on what I have been through up to this point. I have found to get through the last few months I have needed to be entirely focused in my resolve to achieve publication. Time is short when you have a job, a family, want to continue editing and writing, and essentially open a small business; which is what being a self-published author is. You become your own brand and business, and that business will not succeed unless you put all your effort into it. Self-publishing can be a lonely path to travel, as there is so much to sort out that others cannot help you with. However, I have also found it immensely rewarding when things start to come together. As opposed to traditional publishing (where you work to the specifications of others, might have to edit your story to suit the market trends, and work to dead lines set by a large publishing house), you have full control over the content, look, and release date of your work. It is humbling when people do offer their help and encouragement or indeed show an interest in what you are doing. I still get asked who is publishing my book and still see the rolling eyes of those who do not understand what an achievement it is for a self-published author to get their product out there; however, I have learned to ignore that response and instead concentrate on those who are genuinely interested in my work and the process I am going through to get my book out to other people who may enjoy it.
What does the process of self-publishing look like?
Oooh, I can only give you where I’m up to on this one. There is so much to organise and most of it I have learnt by researching on the internet and reading other author blogs. I also still have much left to do…
- First finish your manuscript and edit, edit, edit.
- Beta read then edit….
- Research which platforms you wish to sell from, for instance, create a space, smash words, etc. This has included for me learning about formatting both the manuscript and the cover images to fit their requirements and I still have much to understand about this yet.
- Decide if you want to buy an individual ISBN number or take a free one. Bare in mind if you use one from a specific platform, this may limit where you can sell your book. If you decide to purchase your own (Nelson in the UK and Bowker US provider), you will need to look into becoming the publisher of the book.
- Decide if you wish to copyright and register your book. I have looked into it via the UK copyright service. Cost is between £39.50 and £65.00 ($55.88 and $91.96), depending on the time you want to register for. But this is something that needs to be done when the work is complete, from what I can tell.
- Research and decide upon a cover artist. This was a massively hard decision for me as I loved two artists. I learned very quickly about author/illustrator contracts and the use of rights which is something you need to research too. In the end it was down to cost and the use of the image rights that swayed my decision.
- Set up a mail chimp account (or similar).
- Commission a web site. (I am not technically minded and am struggling with managing and finishing setting up mine).
- Buy a PO Box so your personal address is not out there in answer to emails from your mail provider.
- Spend time deciding on a marketing strategy, which is where a lot of my time goes at the moment. Some people may see this as a down side. I have to say this is one of the areas I am enjoying most. Meeting people on social media can be fun and rewarding.
- Find a good editor and get booked in. They are always busy. My editor is Monica Wanat who edited the Air Awakens series. I am currently editing the word count down on her advice ready for June 15th, which is my booked slot.
I will be publishing on as many platforms as I can, such as Smashwords, ibooks, Amazon, etc in ebook format as well as Print on Demand through Create-a-Space. At the present, funding a private publisher for hard backs is too costly for me. There are many more steps to publishing, but I think perhaps you would all lose interest and Sara would likely run out of space if I carried on!!!
All I can say is if you choose to go down this route to publication, be ready for a steep learning curve and very little sleep. I have only just started this journey and am more than aware I have such a long way to go. I have found other authors and the reading community very supportive, and it always blows me away when people take the time to answer my questions if I email or contact them through social media. I would be more than happy to do the same for others.
TO CONTACT KAREN:
If you guys have any questions about Karen’s publishing process or her upcoming books, please comment below or contact her through either Facebook or Twitter.
Also, come back next Tuesday for my next post delving into the purpose of writing.
See you then! (And keep working on those word count goals!) 🙂